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Hangover Cures

Hungover for the Holidays

By Denis Faye
From the Million Dollar Body Club - Join Today and Workout to Win!

Woe to those who rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; who stay late into the night, until wine inflames them!Isaiah 5:11

Poets have waxed about it, scientists have studied it, and dictators have made massive tactical mistakes under its influence. The hangover. In a word, yuck! But what causes a hangover—and how do you get rid of it? Let's dig a little deeper into the science of the morning after and try to offer a few solutions to this red-eyed, head-pounding monster.

What causes a hangover?

The short answer is, obviously, alcohol, which is poison to the human body. Kind of like the diet version of polonium-210, only your hair doesn't fall out and it takes much longer to kill you.

The long answer to what causes a hangover is a little more complex.

First, there's dehydration. Ethanol, the alcohol in alcohol, is a diuretic. When you drink it, it tells your brain to tell your kidneys to dump water instead of reabsorbing it. As the urine leaves your body, it takes vitamins, minerals, and blood sugar with it.

Dehydration gives you dry mouth and contributes to the fatigue, vomiting, and headache. According to a study published by the International Journal of Sports Medicine, dehydration actually causes your brain to shrink away from your skull slightly. Ouch.

Ethanol causes capillaries, including those in your noggin, to dilate. This makes your headache even worse and explains why some people flush red when on the hooch.

The fatigue occurs not only because of the aforementioned tapped blood sugar, but also due to lack of quality sleep. As we all know, you do indeed sleep after a night of heavy boozing, but it's not complete sleep. You tend to skip the rapid eye movement, or dream, phase of the cycle, which is crucial to both physical and emotional functions.

Other instruments in the hangover symphony of pain are the congeners—byproducts of the fermentation process such as methanol. Basically, they're additional poisons. Red wine, in particular, is rife with congeners, which explains why it has such a reputation as a skull-buster. Conversely, vodka and gin tend to be purer, which has earned them a reputation for just the opposite.

For more about which alcoholic beverages will cause you the most and least pain, check out Steve Edwards' 5 Best and 5 Worst Cocktails.

There are many, many other theories about what causes hangovers, but I've tried to keep it simple because how hangovers, are caused isn't the most important topic here. The most important topic is . . .

How to get rid of a hangover

The answer is this: you can't. There are, of course, steps you can take to alleviate the symptoms, but ultimately you just need to wait it out. Drink water to fight dehydration. Eat nutrient-rich foods to restore vitamins, minerals, and blood sugar. Sleep helps with fatigue. Take an aspirin for a headachebut avoid acetaminophen, or Tylenol, which can be tough on the liver. Alcohol disrupts acetaminophen metabolism, thus aggravating the situation.

There are quite a few B-12 supplements out there that supposedly fight hangovers, but B-12 depletion is just a minor part of a larger nutrient depletion problem, so they don't really help that much. You're better off with some fresh fruit, so you're getting nutrients that can be more easily absorbed and you're fighting blood sugar depletion and dehydration at the same time. As for the old hair of the dog, you're not really fixing the problem; you're just putting it off.

Hangover prevention is the best medicine

Before you drink, eat a solid meal. Any food will slow the absorption of alcohol into your system, although fatty foods take longer to digest, so they stick around to do the job longer. Once you start drinking, pace yourself. A great way to do this is to alternate water/cocktail/water/cocktail, slowing down alcohol intake and maintaining hydration at the same time. When the evening is through, finish off with another glass of H20.

But before putting these plans into effect, ask yourself one thing. Do you need to drink this much? Do you think you can still have fun if you settle for just a couple glasses of Beaujolais? And for those of you trying to lose weight, is knocking back two days' worth of calories in a couple hours really worth it?

Sure, there are times where drunkenness sneaks up on you, but for the most part, it's a question of asking whether the night's jubilations warrant the morning's pain.

For more about imbibing and why water's more than just a mixer, check out "10 Reasons Why You Need to Drink Water" and "Wine or Beer: Which Is Better for You?"

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RICHARD DAFTER

I am a full time Beachbody Coach. I motivate and guide close to 2,500 Club members and head a team of 11 Beachbody Coaches who are all committed to helping you reach your goals. Before joining BeachBody, I was a certified personal trainer for more than a dozen years and have been a running coach for over 20 years. Continued...

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